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Spotlight: organization and marketing of sporting events in Colombia

By September 30, 2021January 8th, 2022Sports events

All the questions

Marketing of sporting events

i Types of rights and ownership of rights

Sponsorship is one of the main sources of marketing for sporting events, as most of the time, national federations, leagues and clubs have long-term relationships with their sponsors. Each player in a major sporting event has their own rights to exploit them through sponsorship: tournament sponsorship rights are exploited and negotiated either by the organizing federation or by the league, but athletes and clubs can also exploit their own rights. An example of this type of rights within the sports industry are the sponsorships celebrated with sportswear brands: national federations also have their sponsor, clubs and athletes.16

Sponsorship agreements are atypical contracts, that is, they are not expressly regulated by law and depend exclusively on the free will of the parties.

Sponsorships not only exploit the trademarks and intellectual property rights of each party involved, but the image rights of athletes and players. The “image right” has two connotations since it is a fundamental right of the natural person and also constitutes an asset. Usually, clubs include a cession of image rights for their players or athletes upon hiring, and similarly clubs cede the rights to the league and the national federation to market the tournament.

The marketing of the merchandising can be carried out by the owner himself (the club for example) or through third parties. The example of sportswear brands is helpful in explaining this: National federations usually do not have the necessary infrastructure and therefore sell the merchandise through third parties who provide such services.

The broadcasting rights are due by the national federations and leagues. Each federation owns the broadcasting rights for their tournaments and events, and contracts are usually signed for several years. For example, the National Federation of Cyclists signed in January the broadcast agreement for their national competitions with RCN (a private broadcaster) for four years,17 after terminating the long-term agreement with Señal Colombia (the government broadcaster). This is an atypical agreement and not specifically regulated by Colombian law.

ii Protection of rights

Colombia has anti-piracy laws in place18 and marketing rights have been affected by this criminal behavior for years. However, Colombia has yet to enact or pass a law against continuous piracy.

Either way, hacking is a criminal behavior duly enshrined in the Criminal Code.19 for illegal exploitation of distribution rights and trademark misappropriation, and may lead to imprisonment.

iii Contractual provisions for the exploitation of rights

Sponsorship and broadcast contracts are not specified in Colombian law and can therefore be freely negotiated. Mandatory provisions are the general provisions established for all kinds of contracts (such as negotiating and agreeing in good faith, avoiding unjustified gain, not contracting for illegal activities, etc.).

As a general recommendation, contracts should contain an exclusivity clause to exploit the rights, at least in the domain to which the sponsor or broadcaster belongs, and in addition there should be a provision to prevent piracy through the protection of copyright owners. confidential information and contractual sanctions or fines if there is a leak of information.

iv Professional sports and labor law Mandatory provisions

The signing of professional (employment) contracts has compulsory legal obligations, such as the payment of social security according to Law 100 of 1993 (and additional rules) and registration with the national federation.20, 21

The general rule for employment contracts (and all other contracts) is to celebrate and sign only with people who have already reached the legal age. But there is an exception for sport: the youth code allows minors aged 15 to 17 to work if they have the authorization of the municipal labor administration and parents or legal guardians, to work under a contract. work for a maximum of 14 hours per week.

The Constitutional Court in judgment C-320 of 1997 mentioned that professional sport has a complex dimension, since it is a spectacle, a means of personal development, a professional activity and a ‘a company. The court said that the athlete’s right to freely choose to work must be respected and defended the legal provision to keep sports rights only for professional athletes.

Regarding wages, workers or employees cannot earn less than a minimum wage if the contract provides for the maximum working hours of 48 hours per week. This means that professional athletes must earn at least a minimum wage. It is common for athletes to enter into employment contracts with a defined duration, but protected by the right to stability established in labor law, allowing the parties to automatically renew the duration of the contract if there is no written notice requesting the effective termination of such contract.

Finally, only employers with professional athletes could have the sports rights of athletes, within the framework of the signed and executed employment contract.

Free movement of athletes

The general rule established in articles 74 and 75 of the Labor Code limiting the number of foreign workers was repealed by Law 1429 of 2010. The rule mentioned that entities in Colombia must respect the proportionality between the number of nationals (90 for hundred) and foreigners. (10 percent). But Law 1429, aimed at encouraging the creation of new and formal jobs, rejected the rule. This means, in general labor law terminology, that there are no restrictions for foreigners to work in Colombia or in any industry.

Nevertheless (and according to the principle of free will in establishing internal rules for associations and private entities – which falls under commercial law), federations could establish limits for their tournaments as to the number of foreigners working and participating.

Application of the rules of employment of the governing bodies of sport

Although Colombian labor law tends to be very protective of workers, it allows federations to fulfill their obligations to international bodies, unless the rules violate workers’ rights. Most of the time, international federations establish mandatory obligations, but when it comes to labor rules, they always respect internal laws, leaving to the national federation the task of harmonizing its various legal systems (private and public ).

The Constitutional Court in the judgment cited above (C-320/97) declared the free will of the federations to build their own rules, and that the athletes have the right to hold their own sports rights, as a development of their right constitutional to freedom. This is important, because it was only recognized by FIFA, for example, in the year 2019 (more than 20 years after the decision of the Colombian Constitutional Court).